Written and Directed by Douglas Mueller
Starring Ryan Barton-Grimley, Jes Mercer, Cora Vander Broek, Ari Schneider, John Orantes
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
A story of life in uniform in indie drama/comedy Repatriation, which stars Ryan Barton-Grimley as Chad - a soldier returning to his hometown where people from his past pay tribute to his sacrifice by buying him drinks as he makes his way from bar to bar on the way back to his father's house. As the night progresses, and more is revealed about Chad's life before the army in this small town, a distinct aroma of tension and bones to be picked arises.
As a character drama, Repatriation is a slow burner. The opening third of the movie lacks any real conflict and the characters are so thinly drawn that audiences may question why they are watching the movie at all. It's not until things start to unravel for Chad that the good stuff gets going. During a sequence with Camille (Jes Mercer), who clings to Chad out of a schoolgirl crush, when their flirting turns into an argument, more depth is given to our man in khakis and his true nature. Barton-Grimley delivers a convincing and layered portrayal of a complex character, even coping well with the rambling slurring as Chad gets increasingly inebriated during his hometown pub crawl. The mystery behind Chad's behaviour and the revelations that come are slow but for the patient viewer very much worth sticking around for.
Writer and director Douglas Mueller captures something quintessential about the military man story, and that is the awkward balance between the prestige and respect which the uniform commands and the fickle nature of the fact that anyone can put one on. As Chad's high school shenanigans are revealed and more is gleaned about his personality, there is a considerable dampening effect on his homecoming celebrations, most obviously reflected in the diminishing amount of free booze he receives. There is also a particularly brilliant, if tragically brief, appearance by Ari Schneider eating a pickle which was wonderfully executed.
From a filmmaking stance, Repatriation is done to a very high standard. The camerawork is effortlessly handled, becoming increasingly frenetic as Chad gets more drunk, and a few of the outdoor shots were masterfully handled. I particularly liked an overhead distance shot of Chad and Camille walking away, and the exciting running scene the two embarked on. Lighting was also impressively used to capture the darkening tone of the story especially in the dimly lit bars which became noticeably more dive-like.
It was a nice spin on the post-conflict genre to not opt for another PTSD story. Chad's involvement in US conflicts is not the driving force of Repatriation. Instead, themes of honour, pride, and integrity get explored through Chad's nomadic journey across town, and in all the inter-personal relationships which arise. His battle scars are most definitely not the defining aspect of his character.
A well-made and engrossing human drama with glimmers of black comedy, Repatriation brings along some unnecessary baggage and an unremarkable script, but packs a punch in its central performance and controversial spin on the genre.
Watch the official Movie Trailer below...